Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

To the Moon and Back

To the Moon and Back

More From Katherine G.

In this video

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson talks about how worried while she was watching the mission to the moon and hoping her computations worked out.

Katherine G.'s Biography

Love for Math:Because there's an exact answer.
Early Affinity for Numbers:"They tell me I counted everything."
Growing Up an African American Girl:"You could be a nurse or a teacher."
The Power of Teachers:"The fact that teachers can obstruct or they can assist. And mine always assisted me in moving up."

Katherine G. Johnson is a pioneer in American space history. A NASA mathematician, Johnson's computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle. She even calculated the flight path for the first American mission space.
 
Born in 1918 in West Virginia, Johnson was a talented student who entered college at only 15 years old. At West Virginia State University, W.W. Schiefflin Clayor, the third African American to earn a PhD. in mathematics, recognized Johnson's abilities and motivated her to take advanced math. Johnson would go on to earn a graduate degree in mathematics.
 
In 1953, Johnson was contracted as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA. She worked in a pool of women performing math calculations until she was temporarily assigned to help the all-male flight research team, and wound up staying there. Johnson’s specialty was calculating the trajectories for space shots which determined the timing for launches, including the Mercury mission and Apollo 11, the mission to the moon.
 

Related Videos

Christy Haubegger
Christy Haubegger
Founder, Latina Magazine

Christy Haubegger is the founder of Latina magazine, the first of its kind. Born to a Mexican-American mother and adopted by a "tall blond family" at a very small age, Ha...

Alfre Woodard
Alfre Woodard
Actor

Alfre Woodard is a prolific actor; she has acted in over 25 TV series and over 70 films during her long career. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and didn’t consider becoming a...

Nina Jacobson
Nina Jacobson
Motion Picture Producer

Jacobson graduated from Brown University in 1987, then started her first job the same year at Disney. She spent the following years at various production companies before joining U...

France Córdova
France Córdova
First Female Chief Scientist, NASA

France A. Córdova, an internationally recognized astrophysicist, once said, “I didn’t have a strategic plan for my life. I have an appetite for discovery. I&rsqu...